Battered Baby?

Rick was fed up of hearing the words battered baby. He'd made sure that not many people actually saw the scar just behind his ear; his long hair had seen to that. But everyone who did see it, immediately uttered those two dreadful letters: BB - Battered Baby. He'd first been labeled with the etiquette the day he started school. The teachers had conducted a test to check everyone's hair was free of unwanted organisms, and the beast, though small, could not be overlooked. The fact that his aunt had tried to put a bandage on it, only served to fuel suspicion. The next day Rick was called to see the school doctor and for the first time had to defend himself against the accusations of being a battered baby. After all, who else was there to accuse? His parents had been killed in the accident that had given him this reminder that the world was against him. As Rick could only stammer a few incoherent words in his defence, both teacher's and doctor's reports were unanimous in their condemnation. Rick Albeen was a battered baby.

As he was no longer allowed to wear a bandage to school, Aunt Debbie let him grow his hair long. She was very bitter in her condemnation of the authorities so quick to point the finger at those who could no longer defend themselves. She knew her sister was not a baby beater, but how to prove that? Especially, since the doctor had conveniently forgotten to mention the scar in his report of the accident. Had he too suspected Rick was a battered baby.

Two years later the chance came to begin over again. Uncle Jonathan got a new job in Newcastle and they all moved north. The teacher's report, of course, went with him, but his long hair meant that none of his friends were able to see what he was hiding. Not, that is, until his first game of rugby. As he was quite strong and thickset, he was picked as prop forward and received a bandage around his head to enable his fellow prop to get a good hold. Making sure the bandage was on firmly, the teacher recoiled when he saw the scar, and after checking up his report gave the students a long lecture on the horrors of baby battering. Once again the long finger of accusation was leveled against him, and it didn't take long for the students to discover who the battered baby, in question, was.

Another move followed, this one forced upon his aunt and uncle by the increasing taunts leveled at Rick from what had been his school friends. Another move, another new beginning. But that new beginning once again turned into a nightmare and Rick lost all ability to explain what had actually happened. Maybe, he was after all a battered baby? Would relief come from admitting that? Accepting what he knew wasn't true?

At eighteen Rick went up to university. There he avoided all contact with sports clubs and threw himself into his studies. In fact, as much as possible he avoided contact with anyone. Most of his acquaintances had normal fingers but Rick knew from experience how the could grow when raised in accusation against him. And as he avoided others, they tended to do the same, not shunning him but not going out of their way to get to know him. True, some students did ask for help with various essays. After all, he was one of the best students of the class. But beyond that they had little to do with him. Then, he met Bethan.

Bethan was pretty much a loner herself. She'd never been a popular girl and was desperate to find someone to talk to. She latched onto Rick who was glad to have someone around. As Rick had never been much of a talker, he threw himself into listening, glad that it afforded him the luxury of not having to talk himself. Bethan and Rick grew closer, and in a while Rick began to believe he had, at last, found someone who would not recoil in disgust upon hearing his story. The two went together everywhere and the two were unwittingly the subject of quite a lot of student banter. But Rick wasn't worried. Say what they want, he felt safe with Bethan like he'd felt safe with no one before. He even began to envisage cutting his hair and telling her his story. For him BB no longer meant battered baby but Bethan Bolten... until the evening of the scream.

They'd shared a wonderful meal together before walking out along the bank of the canal to watch the sun set over the town. Bethan was standing behind Rick stroking his hair when she saw it. The scream was as unrehearsed as it was unavoidable. It did its damage. From that moment the letters BB only ever had one meaning for Rick.

7 comments:

i really enjoyed this one ... there is someone for everyone... and sometimes they can even heal the scars that plague us can't they??????

15 February 2008 at 05:51  

It goes to show, that it isn't really the scar that is scarring, but what others attach to that scar that does all the damage.

It's a reminder not to simply just to conclusion - because seeing is not necessarily understanding ... and it must have been one horrendous scar.

I remember running my hands through a lovers hair once and finding twisted scar tissue there on the scalp. He'd been hit over the head with a beer bottle leaving a nightclub because he'd refused to leave the bathroom so a drug dealer could do a deal!

15 February 2008 at 11:07  

It's such a shame that people will jump to such conclusions, rather than asking where it came from. I run into this a lot on a different level wearing hijab... but that's a whole other story.

Well done this week, and I loved the direction that you took with this. I liked paisley's comment, sometimes the right people can heal our scars, but they're also the ones who know how to rip them back open, deeper than they were to begin with.

15 February 2008 at 16:26  

'Tis always the way with scars. Tells you more about others than yourself.

15 February 2008 at 17:07  

I felt completely frustrated reading this, at the reactions of everyone and the constant moving around forced on him.

It's not often that I get angry at fictional characters, so I think you've managed to touch a nerve with me here!

I'm with square1 - I've known the kind of people who can open those scares and make them worse.

15 February 2008 at 22:50  

Nicely done. There are so many layers here, so many mysteries - where did the scar come from? what happened to his parents? I felt such pity for him, being a victim twice over and having internalized the shame of the injury. You did a fantastic job of creating a very complex character.

16 February 2008 at 05:23  

Again shows to us that its not about what is in front of you - the right now right here - the physical; but its all the baggage, perception, judgement and what others attach to what a scar means to THEM; that causes the angst.
Beautifully captured complex character.

18 February 2008 at 00:37  

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